Stopping the Train Wreck

Over the course of the last few weeks I have been looking at how are thoughts can easily sabotage our efforts to form new habits, and be better people. Many of us, when we enter a new year want to reboot. We want to try again to tackle those extra pounds that we have cumulatively put on each holiday season. We want to go at those piles that pervasively appear in each and every room of our house. We want to be better people; more giving, kind and loving. Many of us begin a new regimen of exercise and dieting, clutter control and clearing out, and even invest in pod casts, books and other things to help us think and act differently. Why then, is it so hard to stick to it? Why after a few days, a few weeks, or if your are really good, a few months, do we typically fall off the wagon?

In my post of two weeks ago, When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck, I examined three mentalities, I believe, contribute to our inability to stick to our new habits. These three thought patterns include being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring. I’d like to reexamine these patterns and discuss ways to change our thoughts.

Being self-absorbed

As I mentioned in the original post, taking care of ourselves is not a bad thing. We need to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and stimulate our minds to give ourselves the best life. Being self-absorbed revolves around a preoccupation with certain ideas about ourselves. These can include thoughts that we do not measure up to some invisible standard that we think other people have set for us, and self-degrading messages like, “I’m too fat,” “I’m not good enough,” which can lead to self-destructive behaviors like cutting, addictions and even suicidal thoughts.

We all have self-absorbed thoughts from time to time. It is easy to get into that mind-set when life is hard and things are not going well. It is also easy to dress in this mind set when your past holds tragedy and pain. However, life cannot be lived to the fullest if we allow those things to imprison us.

I am not a professional counselor, but I’d like to suggest a few things that can help us to get out of the self-absorbed mind-set.

1 - Get Moving

This is partly about exercise and partly about behavior modification. Often when we get into an anxious or self-absorbed circuit, we are unable to get out of the loop. Much like a hamster running on his little wheel, our thoughts keep coming back around to the same loop. We revisit the destructive thought, the let down feeling, the disappointment in ourselves or others and round and round it goes.

Pixabay

Pixabay

It is a well known fact that exercise has good effects on our brains. From increased oxygen flow and release of hormones to antidepressant effects that reduce stress hormones, exercise really is beneficial for the brain. Movement helps to get us out of the loop. It doesn’t have to be rigorous exercise. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are standing still, move. If you are going north, turn around and go south. Every time those thoughts come creeping back in, move.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I find walking very cathartic, when I am stressed. As I walk I do deep breathing and I purposefully force myself to look at the world around me, the neighborhood, the people, the trees, the snow, the icicles hanging from the roof tops. These simple things get me out of my self-absorbed loop and help me to think about other things. It also reminds me that the world is not coming to an end, even if it may seem like it today. As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone With the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Pixabay

Pixabay

2 - Get help

You don’t necessarily need professional help, but if you do, or if others who care about you are recommending it, then do it. Otherwise, find a group of people to keep you accountable. Get an exercise and dieting buddy. Find someone who is going to accept you, but also encourage you to do better. Find an older person, who’s got life experience and ask them to mentor you and help you get out of your self-absorbed box. Or if you are an older person, who doesn’t have much human contact and your are still able to get around, volunteer at a dog shelter, a newborn unit at the hospital or a school. All of these things get us outside our own boxes.

3 - Seek and Speak Truth

You know all those side effects you think you have because you got on the internet and looked up the medication the doctor gave you?

“Stop it!”

In reality, the side effects that are put on medications are put there to keep pharmaceutical companies from getting sued. The reality is the statistics on people who die or have severe reactions to medication are rare. It is an exception, not the norm. The same is true for so many aspects of life. As the saying goes, “Sh-t happens.” This is true, but most of the bad things that we think are going to happen, don’t. In addition, many of the bad things that happen to us we bring upon ourselves. Start researching what is true.

In addition start speaking truth:

“I am not perfect, but I am beautiful.”

“I don’t have a college degree, but I am smart.”

“I haven’t published a book yet, but I am not a failure.”

“I got mad at my husband, but I am a good wife who has bad days.”

“I yelled at my kids, but I am a good mom, even when I my hormones have me off kilter.”

Keep it real.

Demanding Our Rights

Once again, having rights is not a bad thing and an ideal that our founding fathers believed was very important for communities and nations to survive and thrive. However, the thought that the world owes us something is not truthful or beneficial. The mentality of, get it all and get it now, is also not an accurate way to approach life. How do we cope with these entitlement feelings we all have struggled with and still act like a caring, giving individuals?

1 - Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

There is no greater preventative to a rights demanding mentality, than to put yourself in someone else’s place. Being in the service industry I have seen people at their best and at their worst. I don’t even think people realize how rude and obnoxious they are at times. I have had helicopter parents demand that their child’s book be given to them free because it wasn’t on the shelf when they came in to purchase it. I have had people accuse me of racism because when I explained the parameters of their rental book I told them they couldn’t spill their lunch on it. I tell this to every individual I rent a book to. At the end of the day, I am just another person trying to make my way in the world, just like everyone else.

When I feel like my rights are being infringed upon, or that I am being taken advantage of, I try to look at things with new glasses; someone else’s glasses. Thinking about where another person is coming from, not only enables us to view the world differently, but it may even move us to have compassion on another person. You never know what another person is dealing with in their life. They might be dealing with deep hurt or disappointment, or they may be experiencing grief, illness or pain. Having compassion and empathy gets us out of our rights loop and enables us to be better, more understanding individuals.

Pixabay

Pixabay

2 - Recognize Rights Mean Responsibility

Having a right, does not give us a free pass to do whatever we want. In fact, having rights, means having responsibility. People who are for the right to bear arms, understand that owning guns means they are responsible to handle those guns safely and teach others that gun ownership requires safe handling and being responsible to use them wisely.

Many people think that demanding rights is a way to guarantee their freedom to choose to do whatever they want. The opposite is, in fact, true. Having rights means we are enslaved to the responsibility of using those rights for good, not merely personal gain.

Pixabay - bread

So what does this have to do with our thought patterns and becoming better people. My daughter and I have both struggled with our weight. We both love food, especially things that are full of carbs. Bread, sweets, chips are all on our radar of things we love. At one point my daughter said she wanted to be able to eat whatever she wanted. You might think that being able to eat whatever you want is true freedom. However, true freedom lies in the ability to make the better choice. Even if we were able to eat whatever we wanted and never gain weight, does that make it right?

True freedom is the ability to not be bound by our appetites, whether it be food, sex, money, popularity, alcohol, Netflix or any other thing that can become an obsession.

To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.
— Virginia Wolf

Not Caring

It is easy to get into the mindset of not caring. When life gets busy, or overwhelming, sometimes it is easier to just give up. Who cares if I eat that whole bag of Twizzlers? I don’t care if my coworkers like me? I’m failing that class, so what?

Pixabay

Pixabay

Take a look at a few of these quotes:

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
— Margaret Mead
Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.
— Anthony J. D'Angelo

It is important to care. Often, we just need to revisit the why behind the what. In other words, ask yourself why you should care.

Why should you care about your health? Because you are a valuable person who probably has others depending on you and who care about you.

Why should you care what your coworkers think? Because you are part of a team. You can have a positive impact on the people you work with if you care.

Why should you care about your grades at school? Because every choice you make now, will affect the choices you make in the future.

Start thinking about why you should care and maybe that will reignite your ability to care.

Next week will be the final installment in this series on New Year, New Mind. I’ll be looking at setting goals and how to realistically keep them. I will also have some spiritual insights as well. I hope you like this look at renewing our minds. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have a fantastic weekend and to all my northern and midwest friends, stay warm!

The Tower

I lived there once, the Tower. More accurately, I was held captive there. Maybe you are familiar with my story. I was young and curious and that curiosity would often lead me off the beaten path. One particularly beautiful day, when it wasn't quite spring yet, but the sky shone so blue and the sun so bright that I couldn't help but wander, I came upon the castle...his castle. It was beautiful in the sun light, covered with green ivy. The stone walls were built with some ingredient that sparkled, and I loved bling. Before I knew it, I was touching the warm walls with my fingertips. I wasn't afraid. I had no reason to be, or at least I didn't know of one.I walked along the wall until I came to a heavy wooden door and there he was.

Arundel Castel - Arundel, West Essex, England - Photo by Amy Christensen

Arundel Castel - Arundel, West Essex, England - Photo by Amy Christensen

He was tall and very handsome. His light brown hair fell in waves to his broad shoulders. He smiled at me and held out his hand. I took it.

I don't know why! What was I thinking? He was nice to me for a while, giving me presents and telling me I was special, but then he took me to the tower. It became my prison. It wasn't until after he had locked the door that I realized I had made a mistake. Fear grabbed my stomach like a claw then scrabbled its way up into my throat. What had I done? How could I have been so naive, so foolish? The tower became not only my prison, but my torture chamber. The first time he pulled me close I realized his flesh smelled like the breath of hell and rotting meat. He never took me, but would hold me close, until I nearly suffocated from the stench, then he would push me away, mocking me, telling me I was ugly and stupid. Then he would leave locking the door behind him, laughing as he walked down the hall. Over and over, day after day. I had no idea what he would do when he came in. I was terrified. It was always the same. He would hold me, his putrid scent filling my nostrils, until I no longer noticed it. Then he would push me away, railing me with insults. One day, he took the key to the door and threw it out the window. 

Tower steps - Raglan Castle - Raglan, Wales - Photo by Amy Christensen

Tower steps - Raglan Castle - Raglan, Wales - Photo by Amy Christensen

Turning to me he grinned, "You will never be enough!" He walked out the door, laughing down the hall until I could no longer hear him.

I fell into a heap and cried. I didn't even care if I was rescued. I just wanted to die. I was worthless. No one would come for me. No one would ever love me, especially now that I reeked of his lair, his stench. Everyone would know that I was not enough. 

That was years ago now. The Prince saved me. He rescued me. He came and defeated the master of that castle who held me captive. On that day He stood in the door of my tower, I will never forget the eyes that shown like that bluest sky I remembered so well from when I was captured. I cowered at the other side of the small room with a ragged blanket wrapped around my shoulders. He came and knelt down in front of me. 

Holding out His hand he said gently, "Why are you here? You are free. Come, beloved!"

I winced. Shaking my head I tried to back even further into the stone of the walls that had imprisoned me. 

He smiled, "Come, beloved!"

"No!" My voice came out like a squawk. 

He moved to touch me, but I scooted back. He persisted. "You are my beloved. Come, take my hand."

This time, I stood up. "No! I....am...not. I...am...not...enough!"

The prince stood and in one step gathered me into his arms. The first thing I noticed was that he smelled of earth and pine, flowers and fields. He took my face into his hands and said, "Beloved, I am!"

There are still times, I hear that other voice, "You will never be enough!" It comes as a whisper at the end of the day when the sun is waning and the sky darkens.Those words that once held so much power over me were real and cut deep. But the Prince brought healing. His voice has become a balm to my injured soul. He is enough. And I am His. 

“...I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
— Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB)
I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me
— Song of Songs 7:10 (NASB)